School principals can boost staff morale, enhance teaching quality, and lift student performance at their school by introducing a whole-school approach to curriculum planning.

Grattan Institute is today releasing a Guide for principals on how to make this transformation.

The practical, easy-to-use Guide, How to implement a whole-school curriculum approach, warns that Australia will not close the ever-widening achievement gap between disadvantaged and advantaged students unless we solve the curriculum planning problem in our schools.

A Grattan Institute survey of 2,243 teachers and principals across Australia found only 15 per cent of teachers have access to a common bank of high-quality curriculum materials for all their classes.

Teachers say they often plan lessons from scratch, scouring the internet and social media to try to find materials.

This creates a ‘lesson lottery’ in Australian schools – it undermines student learning and adds to teacher workloads.

When teachers have access to a common bank of materials, they are almost four times more likely to say they are satisfied with their school’s planning approach – and they save about three hours a week because they don’t have to source and create materials themselves.

The Guide draws on lessons Grattan’s education experts learnt on a study tour of five schools across Australia that have successfully implemented a whole-school curriculum approach.

The role-model schools are:

  • Marsden Road Public School in south-west Sydney
  • Docklands Primary School in central Melbourne
  • Ballarat Clarendon College in regional Victoria
  • Aveley Secondary College in outer Perth
  • Serpentine Primary School in a regional town near Perth

The Grattan Guide identifies six key features of a whole-school curriculum approach:

  • A shared vision among school leaders and teachers.
  • Shared, detailed, and sequenced curriculum plans and materials.
  • An agreed approach to classroom instruction.
  • A tiered model for supporting the learning of all students.
  • Curriculum leadership roles and expertise.
  • Ongoing professional learning and support for teachers.

‘Transformational change like this is hard,’ says Grattan Institute Education Program Director, Dr Jordana Hunter.

‘It takes leadership, commitment, cooperation, and persistence – successfully implementing a whole-school curriculum approach can take five years or more.

‘But the payoffs are enormous, for teachers and students. Our Guide will help schools get there.’

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